So, you have a normal 9 to 5 job. You are also addicted to social media like FriendFeed, Twitter and the rest. How do you balance your activities so nothing really suffers?
The first thing you must do is figure out what type of commitment you want to make to your social media sites. You can pick a few of your favorite social sites to focus on. If your day job is sitting in a cube or corporate office somewhere, then you will need to limit your activity in some way. If you want to be like Robert Scoble or Louis Gray, you will have to give up some sleep to stay active on several sites.
Personally, I like a decent amount of sleep and it helps with staying focused at work. So, I focus on a few sites, like Google Reader, Twitter and FriendFeed. I am a heavy user of Google Reader and I scan about 500 items per day and share almost 40 of them. That type of activity requires a significant commitment by itself. For Twitter and FriendFeed, I can only check in a few times per day.
Tools of the Trade
To increase your commitment on various sites, you can hook the sites together with RSS. For example, I have all of my Google Reader shared items being fed into FriendFeed. I also set up a special tag in Google Reader for those items that I want to send to Twitter. You can then use a tool like HootSuite, TwitterFeed, or even FriendFeed to read the RSS feed and send those items to Twitter. If you have a Facebook account, you can have your Twitter updates sent to Facebook as well to further spread out your activity.
Another small idea that can help with your interactivity is email alerts. Almost all of the social sites have a way to notify you through email if people are commenting on your posts, or even commenting in the same thread as you. This allows you to maintain the conversation without slavishly checking each site for comments. A similar feature that exists on Twitter (which does not have email alerts) is RSS feeds for your saved searches. So, you can setup a saved search, grab the RSS feed, and save it to Google Reader. You can also do the same with your Twitter mentions so that you never miss a mention. Third party tools help greatly with this, especially for Twitter where you have several excellent tools like Seesmic, TweetDeck, HootSuite and Brizzly.
Another way to control your activity better is to use each site for a specific reason. So, Google Reader is my news and blog reader. Twitter is my quick comment tool, or I may reply to some interesting comment. FriendFeed is where I may post something that I want conversation about. You might even use Facebook only for those updates that you want to go to your “real life” friends. Each site has its strengths and you should work with those strengths. Forcing Twitter to be your RSS reader, or on the other extreme making Google Reader the way you read much of your Twitter traffic is not the best idea.
Your Daily Schedule
Another important thing to do is to set up a daily schedule for yourself. As an example, I will use the schedule that I tend to follow. I wake up early and get to work early as well, so this schedule should modified to fit your daily routine. Generally, the boundaries of my day are 5AM and 10PM, and this gives me some buffer at night if I need it as well.
- 5:45AM – Before going to work, have a cup of coffee and spend 30-45 minutes checking social media:
- Read news and blogs in Google Reader
- Review Twitter for replies/mentions and various saved searches
- If you are a blogger, check your stats and make notes for your next posts
- 7:00AM – Once you are at work, do a final check of the same sites you checked before work
- 12:00PM – While eating lunch, do a full scan of your social sites for about 30 minutes:
- Review Google Reader
- Review Twitter for replies/mentions and various saved searches
- Scan FriendFeed for interesting posts and comments
- 6:00PM – Once you return home and have eaten dinner, you can dedicate a full 2 hours to social media interaction. I find 2 hours to be a good limit for me as I still can have time for my family.
An important thing to remember for us cube dwellers is that social media is not paying our bills. If your work load is very heavy one week, then you should scale back your social media activity. Even in social media, some things will be more important than others. As a software developer, Google Reader is an integral part of my job. I read plenty of programming related articles with Google Reader, so it will never be cut from my schedule. However, FriendFeed and Twitter will always be a lower priority if my schedule does not permit much time.
Just remember that social media is supposed to be about community. If you find yourself trying to compete with people like Robert Scoble or Louis Gray, you will typically lose. Scoble’s job is social media, so he basically gets paid to use sites like FriendFeed and Twitter. In addition to being a tech blogger, Louis Gray helps companies with marketing and getting those companies’ marketing integrated with social media and the internet in general. Again, it is his job to use social media. Until you have a job like theirs, you can never be as active without having your work suffer. In this economy, your work cannot suffer, so you need to find some way to balance the time.
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What about those of us who work at night? Haha, just kidding. This is a good template to follow. I’m gonna show this to my office.
Some people I know actually start up again after 10pm for an hour or two. I know I can’t do that as I need a solid 6 hours of sleep. The schedule has worked for me for a while now, but I know some people don’t like it. It is highly dependent on how you work. Some people would rather take a larger block of time, like 4 hours, for their social media activities and focus the rest of their day on work.
I definitely needed this article, thanks a lot for the tips.
I think 2 hrs at night is a little excessive. It would be much better to spend more time with family or go out and actually SEE people to socialize 🙂
I usually check mine in the morning for 30 minutes, lunch for a bit, then briefly around 5-6pm before I am ready to wind down for the day. Good tips for compressing diff. sites together.
The idea was that this was a relatively extreme case, not Scoble/Gray extreme, but definitely working with an addiction 🙂 If you are only using social media for 2 hours per day, then you can probably manage things better than I can. 2 hours for me is only feeding my Google Reader addiction, but I am not your typical case either.
Great post. I’m a graphic designer with my own business and I work out of my home. I just discovered the whole social media thing a month ago and I’m addicted–mostly because of all the new information I see and then want to investigate further. I’ll have to use this as a guide to temper my “SM” time.
Awesome article Rob,
Care to share what feeds you have setup in Google Reader?
I’ve got 17 at the moment, but am always on the hunt for more feeds related both to the general web stuff, and also development feeds.
Be careful what you wish for 🙂 According to Google Reader trends, I have 349 subscriptions and over the past 30 days have shared 946 items. So, your best bet is to start by following me or my shared items at http://www.google.com/reader/shared/robdiana. You may also want to follow Louis Gray and Mike Fruchter to get a nice breadth of information. Also, the blog roll on my personal blog is actually taken from my reader feeds which could give you a good number of feeds, but it has not been updated in a while.
Great Advice! As a new blogger I am constantly trying to spread the word via social media and checking my stats. Hell, it is 2am..my time right now, and look what i am doing LOL
Awesome, I’m following your shared items on google reader now, so far so good… a nice collation of stuff that wasn’t in my feeds already. You’ve done the hard yards for me 🙂
Doing some physical exercise can be also healthy and a rewarding activity…
Nice. I’m trying to decide between cutting down/streamlining/prioritizing my time online and taking a total break by quitting the internet for a year… the dilemma is that quitting completely would probably cause me to be less productive than moderating my usage, but it could be an opportunity to *really* prioritize and decide what sites/applications/experiences I need online, and what I don’t… decisions, decisions
any advice? =)
I love this post! Thanks.
People actually get back from work at 6.00? OMG
This is ridiculous. Needing to schedule your social media means you have a real problem!!! Get off the computer.